Discuss the significance of Elizabeth's quote about John in The Crucible:  "He have his goodness now.  God forbid I take it from him!"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Not only is this the closing line of the drama, but it represents one of the strongest statements that can be uttered from one spouse to another.  The meaning of the quote is that Elizabeth has fully understood her husband's need to represent goodness.  Throughout the play, John has struggled with the need to do the right thing, and has aspired to be stronger than he actually is.  At the end of the drama, when he falsely admits to being a witch, a confession that he immediately regrets when Rebecca Nurse looks at him with disappointment, he recognizes that there is a need to transcend the morality of Salem and seek to achieve something better. He recognizes that while he has sinned, he can rectify his mistake of adultery with being able to accept death as a punishment.  When he says, "Leave me my name," it is a statement that one's reputation and one's name is the only permanent capital in a world of fleeting mutability.  For her part, Elizabeth has not voiced her own opinion about what John should do, but she does recognize that there is an inner strength and revitalized commitment to him when he decides to accept death as a consequence.  This revitalization is something that had been lacking in John throughout the play, starting with his flirtations with Abigail, his inabilty to fully commit to his marriage, his ambivalence about taking action, and his frustration at the lack of justice in Salem. It is at this moment that Elizabeth recognizes her husband's qualities of goodness and she cannot "take" it from him.  When Hale begs her to plead with him, she cannot.  She understands that throughout the entire drama, John had sought to have "goodness."  The last moments of the play is when he achieves it.  Should she take it from him, his entire state of being would be called into question.  It is for this reason she refuses to stop him from what he feels he must do.

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